Since we are in the final week of the love month of February it might be appropriate to close this out with a little bit of love.
As you may or may not recall, I wrote previously on the importance of loving people, even those who might annoy us. Yes, loving even those people who might send you in the opposite direction if you spot them walking into the room. That’s a tough thought, isn’t it?
Reading through an old book on my shelf, I noticed a couple of statements by the Early Church Fathers on this topic. In the Second Century, Clement of Alexandria wrote a portion on love that caught my eye. Actually, he might have been one of the first writers to use a variance of the much-maligned phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Clement reminded the church at that time to love the thief or “ungodly person.” He wanted them to love that individual, but hate the sin that ensnared them. The inclination to sin that I know all too well. But before you hit the close button on your browser, let me say something quickly about what Clement said.
Clement did not want the person to be tolerated in the presence of Church. He did not want them to passively accept the individual. He did not want the people to put a scarlet letter on the shirt of the individual. Instead, he wanted the followers of Jesus to look at the person through a different set of eyes. Loving that person does not mean to condone or condemn them, but to see them as a man or woman that God has made, and that they are the work of God. They are the very work of God, someone who is precious in the eyes of their Creator.
Tertullian, another ancient Christian from the Third Century, would also comment that Christians were different in that age because they did not only love people who liked them. They loved their enemies, they loved people who might turn them over to the persecuting Roman authorities. For Tertullian, the Christian faith is focused on loving others and praying for those who might persecute you. Whether it’s that relative who calls you names because of your faith or the oppressive government militaries that break up church services by force, loving an enemy is something alien to our broken human nature and yet found in the heart of God.
For those who are in Christ, we too know that we have a dirty past. That while we were in the enemy camp, Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. This is a basis of love. This is where a person can learn to not tolerate others, instead embracing them for who they are– a man or woman with the image of God on them.